It was a Friday. I was tired. Like most things the set up had been a bit of an issue and technical difficulties are always the norm, aren't they? But come 1:15, when the fifth graders walked into their pod area, the place came alive! They had been waiting for this for close to three weeks and the (renewable) energy - fittingly the unit topic - was palpable. The visitors? The team directly responsible for creation our new campus. Architects. Check. Director of Operations. Check. Project managers. Check. Sustainability expert. Check. Engineers. Check. All here to link our new facility to exceptional learning.
The students were offered a glimpse of the plans related to sustainability in very informative and pretty snazzy posters focusing on nearly everything from daylight harvesting to grey water reuse to solar power to green spaces and traffic flow. The kids listened intently. At the midpoint the tables were turned. Visitors scampered across the way to the respective breakout rooms based on four main themes: Water for Energy, Pressure Points, Water harvesting, Solar/Wind energy. Other groups walked around in a gallery walk of posters and plans for the new campus. The wow factor was palpable and the questions coming at machine gun speed.
In their respective classrooms the students impressed us all with their thoughts, intended to be "outside the box" practical things that we might consider as we plan the new campus in years to come. Ideas on the table? How about harnessing the energy from playground swings or using self adhesive, transparent solar panels on windows or cork floor tiles that absorb human weight and capturing kinetic energy? The kids were full of wonderful ideas and the visiting team loved them!
As an observer of this sort of event it's difficult to not find inspiration in watching students engage in an authentic manner with practitioners in the field. Above and beyond the ideas presented and the sharing of thoughts and questions, it was equally impressive to see how fifth graders, only 11 years old, carried themselves as they made presentations to their peers and the visiting experts. Their poise and confidence were only superseded by the obvious level of deep understanding of their topic.
When we all drifted away from the event the adults had a real "wow" look to their faces. The interaction alone had been a heart warming event, but they carried with them a bit of inspiration too for recognizing that our students might just be able to put sustainability into their daily practice, at our new campus and beyond. A subsequent email from CK Tang, the lead sustainability architect, noted "It was great fun for me to have the opportunity to interact with the kids and to learn from them. The great thing about them is that there is no boundary in their imagination and it is great, because they are thinking out of the box!"
Wow. The future looks bright.